Telescope: To 2019, with machismo

On the football field and on Kashmir, there’s a lot of testosterone around

Written by Shailaja Bajpai | Updated: June 21, 2018 5:23:50 am
(From left) Kavinder Gupta, who was Deputy CM in the coalition government, BJP general secretary Ram Madhav, state BJP chief Ravinder Raina and Union Minister Jitendra Singh at a press conference in New Delhi on Tuesday. (Photo: Prem Nath Pandey)

A great deal of muscularity has been displayed on television, recently. When Salman Khan is the anchor of a TV show (Dus Ka Dum, Sony), what else can you expect? Why, even his eyes seem to bulge — with sympathy for overwrought contestants.

There was our very own prime minister showing off his muscular frame during a specially-designed fitness programme on the lawns of his official residence. Rahul Gandhi, for one, was much struck, not dumbstruck, by this video on Modi’s moves: A video grab of the Congress President at his Iftaar party, heard him, apparently, describe the PM’s exercises as “bizarre” and suddenly that was headline news on India Today with the ubiquitous BJP spokesperson, Sambit Patra, sniffing disapproval.

Meanwhile, Virat Kohli, the fitness fiend, is busy promoting International Yoga Day — that’s today for you sluggards who think it means stretching out in bed and watching PM Modi display his skills, in the open (and, hopefully, clean air) of Dehra Dun, his latest annual yoga day destination.

Poor Alan Dzagoev: His hamstring muscles let him down rather painfully during the opening match of the soccer World Cup in Russia’s encounter against Saudi Arabia, forcing him out of the tournament (Sony Ten). Other players have been more fortunate and if you don’t care too much about the “beautiful game” but are watching it, nevertheless, there are many well-honed muscles in motion to admire — the gastrocnemius and the vastus lateralis, for instance.

Many toned pecs and abs are on view in the TV studios, as the expert commentators including Bhaichung Bhutia and Sunil Chhetri, have chosen to sport really tight shirts beneath tighter waistcoats and blazers (Sony Ten). Not sure why they’re all “suited-and-booted” — the BBC commentary team is in shirtsleeves — because they appear strait-jacketed (forgive the pun) and mighty uncomfortable. And if we didn’t know hair follicles didn’t possess muscles, we’d say Bhutia and Chhetri have been giving their hair a good workout, to say nothing about Neymar.

Anchor Joe Morrison, Luis Garcia, Wes Brown, and Bhutia seem to have been shopping at Sock It To Me, lately: Have you seen the pairs they sport? Bright, striped and more colorful than their pre, post and interval interactions. Those are really pretty lifeless. Boring. Outdated. Just like the bad ‘ole days of DD sports coverage when grave men sat around a table, gabbing. Why not magic screens to track the players, the trajectory of shots, like foreign channels do?

That Sony has to fall back on Novy Kapadia for its Hindi commentary suggests there’s no one better informed and/or able to speak in the mother tongue. Disappointing. Sony Ten has been really miserly, short on ideas, like Germany was against Mexico. Where they have scored is in providing Bengali and Malayalam commentary.

Which brings us to the very strong language and headlines on Tuesday afternoon when “BJP dumps PDP” (Times Now, Republic). These channels and others, like Zee News and News X in particular, had been flexing their muscles since Shujaat Bukhari was killed last Thursday. “#Blood on Pak Hands” screamed News X baying for our neighbour’s khoon; “#UnleashOurForces” demanded Republic, “EndCeasefire”, advised Times Now.

It is a moot point whether the Modi government ever listens to its “media advisors” — or, is it the other way around — but certainly, Tuesday’s divorce had aggressive intent. From the BJP’s J&K point man, Ram Madhav, to the army officers who appeared on TV and TV anchors, there was a great deal of macho talk on the tube. Much of it was aimed at the PDP and ex-CM Mehbooba Mufti as the BJP and these channels blamed both for everything that has gone wrong in the state. Republic went with “3 years, 33 blunders” with a photo of Mehbooba, as though she had committed all of them. One apoplectic army officer expressed contempt for “pseudo intellectuals” who spoke English and wanted to “put on bangles” (women won’t forgive him the slight). But, “we can speak English too” he asserted and a “muscular” approach lay ahead.

Nothing to beat Sambit Patra: Repeatedly asked by Rahul Kanwal (India Today), how things would be better in the future, he said “wait and watch” (with a smile), complete freedom will be given to the army and military — the “iron fist” had been ungloved. Scary or what? Several anchors on NDTV, Times Now, ABP, India Today, said there had been a show of strength already in J&K but the BJP spokespersons brushed that aside, waving the flag of “nationalism” and “terrorism” in our faces.

The contours of the BJP’s 2019 campaign begin to emerge: It comes in the shape of Modi’s muscularity on nationalism and against “anti-nationals”.

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com

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